Children who are protected from parental conflict and sadness and who can maintain strong relationships with both parents can make a healthy adjustment after the divorce. Research consistently indicates that it is not divorce itself that causes hardship for children; rather, it is the conflict related to the divorce that puts stress on children.
Hopefully, you will view this information as good news. If you can manage the conflict, your kids likely will be OK. Children whose parents avoid putting them in the middle of their disputes will experience sadness over the marriage’s end, but they will not have to deal with the horror of parental fighting or the trauma of having to choose one parent over the other.
If you recognize that you cannot control your anger when you interact with your ex, then get the necessary personal or professional support to deal with your intense feelings so that they don’t filter down and harm your children. Be aware that children are very attuned to their parents’ general state of well being. If your children know that you’re sad or worried, they will focus on caring for you and will hesitate to bother you further with their own concerns.
Children fare best when they can maintain a good relationship with both parents. A concentrated effort must be made by you to sustain a strong relationship with your children and to actively encourage the children’s relationship with the other parent, despite how difficult this may be.
Divorce necessitates all family members to take a detour from their normal developmental tasks. With appropriate support and education, this detour can be brief as all family members adjust well to a new kind of family.
Janice Shaw, is a counselor and the coordinator of the separation and divorce programs at Jewish Family and Child Services in Toronto. She can be reached at (905) 882-2331.